Fly-Camp Safaris – is it for you?

We often talk about fly-camps in the safari context so I thought it was worth explaining how a fly-camp differs from a typical tented camp that we use for safaris. I’m not quite sure where the name ‘fly-camp’ comes from. It might derive from the term ‘fly by night’, as these are small, temporary camps that can be easily put up and taken down. It might even come from the word ‘fly-sheet’ which describes the outer canvas of a small tent, or a homemade shelter. It’s certainly nothing to do with any winged insects!

Wherever the name comes from, a fly-camp is a small, temporary camp that is set up in the bush. Usually it is attached to a more established camp so that you spend a few nights in more luxury and a couple of nights in the fly-camps. Staying in one is reminiscent of boy-scout camping, only with someone else cooking and doing all the chores for you!

Fly-camps are often confused with Bush Camps however Bush Camps are permanent camps, often with a focus on walking safaris, which simply have a more rustic ambience than a safari lodge.

Sleeping

Comfort is more limited than in a more luxurious permanent tented camp. The tents are sometimes just normal camping tents, and sometimes a little bigger.  Beds may be camp beds but  sometimes they are proper beds.

Eating

Dinner is cooked on the fire, and served nearby – after which it’s natural to gather around the campfire, relax in canvas chairs, for a drink and a chat. There’s something mesmerising about dancing flames under an African sky, with the sounds of the wild in the background. Dining is usually a communal experience with everyone sharing stories of the day’s events. If you like to keep yourself to your self, then a fly camp may not be for you.

Washing

Fly-camps vary as to their abulution facilities. At the top end of the scale you might have private facilities, perhaps with an en suite toilet (long drop with a bucket of sand which you add after the event). There’s usually a basin with a jug of hot water for washing etc.  ‘Bucket’ or ‘bush’  showers are the norm, sometimes private, sometimes shared with others. Hot water is added to a bucket suspended above you. You pull the cord and water showers over you. Depending on the bucket size, there’s usually enough water for a 2 minute shower.

Safety

If you’ve not done it before, then sleeping out in the bush in Africa might seem a little scary, but there’s always an armed game scout nearby to reassure you. We love fly-camping, and can’t recommend it too highly for adventurous adults. However, these trips aren’t for younger children. Talk to us about them, and perhaps go fly-camping for just a day or two in the middle of your trip.

Though a fly-camp is a completely different sort of safari experience, the level of comfort varies from camp to camp and so it’s worth chatting to us about this, as you may be pleasantly surprised…

Some of my favourite options
Savute under Canvas – top end of the scale, Savute channel
Chikoko Camp, South Luangwa
Sanctuary Zebra Plains Camp, South Luangwa
Selous Safari Camp, Selous
Chada Katavi, Katavi National Park

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Kate Bergh is co-founder of Cedarberg African Travel, a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa.

She heads up the South African office, having lived in South Africa since 1993. Her home looks up to the Cedarberg Mountains, where she enjoys hiking and cycling, when she’s not out discovering new places to visit, with her three children in tow. Kate has travelled extensively throughout the region to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as most areas of South Africa. She also loves history, meeting people and a good thriller...

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